A Carnival of Curiosities

A young, creative entrepreneur from the Ribble Valley is bringing a cast of weird and wonderful vintage traders and performers to a Victorian style circus sideshow that will form the centre piece of a heritage festival which aims to attract thousands of people to Blackburn.

Mark Andrews from Mellor launched ‘The Apothecary’, a Victorian themed pop-up cocktail bar early this year. He recently returned to Lancashire after several years working in music and events and in Manchester, London and Brighton and has been travelling with The Apothecary to various festivals, weddings and vintage events up and down the country.  Now he’s using his network of young, creative start-ups, musicians and performers to create ‘A Carnival of Curiosities’.   The fairground sideshow style market will be sited outside the Town Hall on King William Street alongside a vintage carousel and wooden helter skelter with a menagerie of street performers, vintage style food stalls and a street organ.  This is being funded by the Blackburn BID as part of a partnership with the council aimed at developing a calendar of vibrant events to drive visitors to town. There are over 20 other events and attractions taking place as part of Heritage Open Days and the wider festival.

Mark’s billboard style advertising proclaims, ‘A Carnival of Curiosities is a wondrous and mysterious travelling fair featuring hand-picked attractions and oddities from around the world. We have a passion for the extraordinary and all things unique, absurd or ludicrous! Inside this stupendous sideshow you will find a veritable feast for the senses. Expect to be joyously overwhelmed by the sights, sounds, smells, tastes and general goings on within.’

Mark says, ‘I’m really excited about launching this at the first Blackburn Heritage Festival. It’s a perfect excuse to get the creative juices flowing and we’ve lots of exciting plans taking shape at the moment. We’ve had a great response from local businesses and creative types looking to get involved. Wherever possible I have tried to showcase and give priority to local businesses in particular those run by under 35s.’

‘We already have some great exhibitors coming along. These include ‘The Weird & Wonderful’ – suppliers of the highest quality of Natural History. This includes everything from Taxidermy, to framed insects and fossils. If you’re a life-long collector or just starting to create your own cabinet of curiosities there’s something for everyone to be found inside this Aladdin’s cave of natural history.

The Time Train in Clitheroe – They have a passion for all things vintage retro or unusual. Anything from old vinyl records to anatomical body parts! They are well established now as an epicentre for the collectible and unusual with their record collection going from strength to strength too.

Blackwood Boutique – Sam Blackwood uses hand cast sterling silver, semi-precious stones and antique jewellery to create her unusual charms bracelets and pendants. Lots of Victorian influences with hints of Alice in Wonderland in her previous work. Her work has been featured in The Sunday Times Style Magazine, Grazia, Indie Style Vienna and The Wonder Room in Selfridges London.

Shabby Cheek – Their mission is ‘to rehome orphaned objects, find lost things, take the used and make it useful.’ a fascinating trader selling all manner of unusual and unique items presented in his unique Victorian curiosity shop style.

Vintage Whatnots – Vintage Whatnots has been around since early 2013, bringing unusual, curious, and interesting items to a Vintage stalls and fairs around the country. A family run stall, there is father – David, wife – Laura and Andrew Foulkes.

One of the most exciting participants will be the Curiovan: Explorium of Natural Wonderment. Inside the Curiovan nests, skulls and specimens in jars, insects, microscope slides and fossils all jostle for attention alongside tiny skeletal fairies, singing mechanical birds, six-winged butterflies, clockwork ladybirds, fictitious archaeology and dancing skeletons.

Housed within a beautiful and rare 1920s wooden caravan replete with leaded glass windows, visitors are carried away to a different time and place where their senses of curiosity and wonder are truly awakened.’

A Carnival of Curiosities is at the Blackburn Heritage Festival on Saturday 13 & Sunday 14 September. For more details go to www.blackburnheritage.com.


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